Water Crisis in Orissa

Submitted by Hindi on Mon, 04/18/2016 - 16:20
A Report by ‘Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology’ for National Commission for Women, January, 2005, Page 21-26.

In Oriya there is a common saying, “Jala bihune srusti nasha, jala bahule srusti nasha” which means water both in abundance and in scarcity pose a threat to the existence of life on earth. The summer season and scarcity of water are synonymous. Both the rural and the urban area go through a water stressed condition during these months. The rural women have to bear the brunt of water scarcity, as they have to go a distant place to fetch water, which has an adverse effect on their health. It’s a pity that rural women are not still aware of water conservation methods to fight the scarcity. Role of women in water resources management and conservation has been duly recognized. The National Water Policy 2002 while stressing on participatory approach in water resources management specifically provides for necessary legal and institutional changes to be made at various levels for the purpose of ensuring appropriate role for women. The Ministry of Water Resources, while issuing guidelines in April 1987, specifically emphasized the States to consider representation of women in Water Users Associations at all levels. As a consequence, many State Governments have amended their Irrigation Acts or have come out with specific Acts on the Participatory Programme in Irrigation. Some of the States have gone further and have made specific provisions for women. One can categories the women in relation to water as rural and urban.

The approach for water of a rural woman is different from her counterpart in an urban area. Though the state government is taking care of the water needs by providing tube wells, wells in rural area, the woman has to struggle hard to fulfill her water requirements. The women in these areas are still not well armed to fight both the abundance and scarcity of water. The urban woman is bit more comfortable as there is municipal supply water and people have the monetary capacity to have their own bore wells. But the poorer section of the urban establishments particularly the women in the slums have to face the hardship in procuring water. Availability of potable water both in the rural and urban Orissa is pathetic as is revealed from the census report 2001. Out of a total of 7870,127 families of the state only 687284 families receive water through municipal supply. This is about 9% only. About 3% of the state population still collects drinking water from rivers and canals. Those along the large rivers sometimes walk miles to fetch drinking water. 29% of the population collect potable water from dug wells and 27% from tube wells. Poor sanitary practices and non-availability of toilets is equally alarming. 92.29% families of the rural areas and 41% in the urban families do not own a toilet.

Six villages of Jagatsinghpur district and cuttack town was studied under this project to know the level of awareness among the rural and the urban women about safe drinking water and judicious use of this resource. Six Villages of Jagatsinghpur which are having river, canal, tube wells, community ponds and wells were studied under this project to find out the common problems that are being faced by the women regarding use of water for domestic purposes. Cuttack was studied as a sample urban establishment of Orissa to find out the problems of women in procuring water for domestic use both during the abundance and the scarcity of water. Besides, the study also tried to assess the level of awareness among treatment, recycling of used water, ground water recharge, storing and using safe drinking water, preservation of water bodies, prevention of water borne diseases and optimum use of water.

Water sources50 women of different age group of different families and having different educational background were interviewed from each of the villages mentioned in table No. 4. (2) to know the positive and the negative aspect of water in abundance and in scarcity. They were also asked about there awareness for different water related issues. Each woman has to collect about 10 to 20 pitcher full ( about 200 to 250 litres) of water for their domestic use apart from bathing. For a family having 5 to 8 members. In villages like Nacchipura and Jamukona people have to depend on the government tube wells during the summer season. In fields people dig ‘Chua’ (small shallow wells having diameter of about 3 meters and depth of about 2 meters) where water gradually acculmulates. People use these ‘Chua’ for bathing and even drinking purposes. In these villages people do not venture to dig shallow tube wells because these become defunct during the summer season. The community ponds become dry in the summers, which make it difficult for the women to take bath and wash their clothes. Women also find it hard to pump bore wells for a long time as the water level goes down.

Rains bring some solace to the women who struggle hard to get during the summer months. The puddles made by the rainwater are used for bathing and washing clothes. Unknowingly the women invite many water borne diseases by using such temporary water bodies. Flood during the rainy season is common in many parts of Orissa, which adversely affect the people. It’s a matter of great concern that a large chunk of womenfolk are not aware of safe drinking water, its collection, purification and storage. Level of awareness about safe drinking water is directly proportional to the level of literacy among women. Astonishingly more than 90 percent of rural women are not aware of ground water conservation, water shed management after so much discussion on this subject in the media. Awareness about water purification, water pollution, preservation of water bodies and storing and using safe drinking water is abysmally low among rural women.

Cuttack town

Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) comprises an area of 91.94 Sqr km. Having a population of 533139 as per the provisional census of 2001. The total corporation area has been divided into 39 wards. The town is situated in-between river Mahanadi and the Kathajodi. Though many people afford to have their own tube wells and municipal supply connections, the poorer section of this urban establishment has to depend upon the rivers for bathing and public tube wells and the public stand posts for other domestic uses. In the rainy season the water in the river becomes dirty and polluted but the regular users of the river get water near the shore. However the water line recedes in the summer season and people have to walk about one kilo meter in the sand to reach the water mass (Plate-5). Level of ground water sinks in this town year after year. In the summer season people face a water stressed condition. Awareness about water conservation among the people of slum area is almost zero. The section of the society who is aware of this fact turned a blind eye towards wastage of this precious resource. It really hurts to see that about 90%

Of the public supply taps run aimlessly. Most of these points do not have a stopcock to regulate the flow. Neither the Municipal corporation nor the general public care to think about a solution for it. Community involvement in maintaining these stand posts and the public tube wells is the need to the hour of sustainability of these points. Water logging in many parts during rainy season makes the people vulnerable to many water borne diseases.

Detailed information on tubeOrissa, district Naupada, block Boden, Village Bhaisadani lying on the fringe of a forest reserve, the tribal settlement was shunned by parents looking for grooms till seven years ago. The reason; the women of the village had to walk through dense forest to mountain streams three kilometers away; three times a day to fetch water. The stream was the only source of water for them and the trek through the forest often entailed encounter with wild bears (Saksena 2003)

Their day began with the 5 a.m, trip to the stream. Which caused a bald patch on their heads where they rested the pitcher. Bhaisadani Village fell in the dark zone. However, the expertise in watershed management by some Voluntary Organization changed their lives. The women offered free labour to construct a 25-foot wide and 2-foot high check dams at the spot. From there a 3 km long cement canal was constructed to carry the water to a pond near the village. The water harvesting structure took four years in the making and became operational in 1998 (Saksena 2003)

Having water so close by has given the women not only plenty of spare time but also green vegetables. Earlier they did not know about vegetables. They ate rice with salt, when there was no water to boil the rice, they had to roast it.

At Maharajore Village, drinking water used to be a problem. A river flows close by but drawing water from it during the monsoon was a dangerous proposition. Many women had been swept away by the current. Now, near the village the Council has constructed a dam for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART). Today, the dam irrigates 404 acres of land and quenches the thirst. The Women Committee maintains the dam and supervises the water distribution.

The Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation

The Orissa Lift Irrigation (OLIC) provides a lifeline for approximately 50,000 farming households, the majority of whom are small and marginal farmers, enabling them to produce enough food and remain self reliant in meeting their basic food needs.

Created by the Government of India, OLIC is instrumental in supplying the agriculture water need to farmers in areas where canal irrigation is not available. However post cyclone the Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation is just one of the many public sector corporations to face a privatization overhaul under the combined onslaught of the World Bank, and Department For Finance International Development, U.K (DFID) under the pretext that they are loss making operations.

With Orissa’s debt burden amounting to Rs. 24000 crores, 60% of state revenue goes towards servicing this debt, leaving only 40% left to meet day to day expenditures on public service. The directives via the WB’s puppet installation of DFID, whose role it has become to oversee the ‘proper’ utilization of WB’s loans to the state, (i.e. the programme of privatization through it’s conditional lending policy), for which DFID receives a concession of 18% of the loan.

As one of the main employers in the state, (9500 direct and indirect employees of OLIC range from engineers to agriculture labourers) government action has had a devastating effect on people livelihoods. The state government has conducted a moratorium on jobs, wages have not been paid to over 20,000 teachers, salaries have been cut, staff laid off, and millions of people are without the prospect of paid work, all part of the various fiscal and financial measures of the government in tackling the state’s financial crisis.

Moreover the claims made by WB and DFID that OLIC is a loss maker does not show the wider picture. For example DFID chooses to interpret limited set of statistics ignoring the fact that OLIC has been providing as essential service to the most effected poor and marginalized farmers. It’s role has been crucial in helping farmers to irrigate 435 lakh hectares for agricultural land which produces 16 lakh Million Tonnes of food grains (valued at 710 crore rupees). This in turn enters the food security system including the PDS (Public Distribution System), giving affordable food to people.

Therefore, the cost of water is more than compensated by the amount of food produced. The commodification and marketisation of water will mean that the 50,000 farmers will have no access to food as they will no longer be able to afford to produce food with the increased cost of water and will be turned from economic producers to an economic drain on the state. Millions of small and marginal farmers will become displaced migrating to cities in search of new livelihoods.

OLIC provides 70-80% crop success for farmers, who depend on OLIC for Rabi (winter) cultivation. The role of OLIC was set up to provide a public service and not to make a profit. This role is being undone in the name of fiscal reforms, which make a mockery of the state government anti-poverty policies, as laid out in 1998 WB report ‘Reducing Poverty in India’ and clearly goes against the interest of the poor.

WB reasoning is that water scarcity is a new situation and needs a new approach to water management. Under the heading of ‘participatory development’, the WB and DFID have abused the concept of local level participation through the setting up of Pani Panchayats. Farmers are anxious in the way that Pani Panchayats are being undemocratically installed, formed with those who have financial social and political clout. Often the groups do not represent the local community, yet take control over the community’s water resources, operate and manage it in return for fees paid by the users. (98% of Water Committees have been formed where lift irrigation points are involved). Users have to repay the capital (fixed assets) costs over a period of time, and have to pay immediately in full for the operation and management. In Orissa, the price of lift irrigation water to users has increased almost 10 times since the creation of the Pani Panchayats. Water rates have increased from Rs. 750 to Rs. 5000 and from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 10,000.

The formation of Pani Panchayats only serves to undermine the activities of small and marginalized farmers to access water, resulting in a collapse in food production for thousands of farming households, as well as thousands of job losses for OLIC employees. Further problems are likely to arise through Pani Panchayats including access to drinking water of which the bulk of rural drinking water is provided meeting the basic water needs of the rural folk.

Co-opting Cooperative Governance Systems: The DIFD/WB Pani Panchayat

By usurping the word ‘Panchayat’ for creating user groups or ‘stakeholders’ who pay for water, DFID is following the lead of the World Bank, is undermining the concept of community control over this natural resource. The four million pound sterling project is being implemented by the Adam Smith Institute, U.K in the Jagatsinghpur and Puri districts of Orissa, the districts that are particularly vulnerable to cyclones. Particular efforts to privatize water are being made in villages that bore the brunt of the Orissa Super cyclone in 1999, where people and agriculture have yet to recover from the calamity. This region was also the recipient of genetically contaminated food aid in the aftermath of the cyclone; the exposure of this added health threat by the Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology spearheaded the Indian Campaign against Genetically Engineered Food as Aid.

The OLIC/Pani Panchayat project of DIFD involves the cooption of NGOs, primarily Unnayan and SEEDS, who have been working in the areas for some time and have established their credibility with the people, is based on the privatization of the 6,600 Minor Lift Irrigation Projects (MLIP) of the Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation (OLIC), a public sector enterprise. The water users’ group in each village designated as “Pani Panchayat” or PP, does not represent the village community, but is actually a group of those who can pay Rs. 40/hour for water and is supposed to look after the day-to-day management and maintenance of the equipment. The project designers have ensured that the payment is made in advance through a coupon system so that no credit-sales are done.

The PP has to sign a legal document with UNNAYAN in regards to exceeding in project and managing the activities and maintaining the assets created under the project. The support provided to the PPs (both for fixed assets and revolving fund) is not considered as grant, rather considered as a returnable grant. In case of fixed assets the fund provided to the PPs will be returned back to UNNAYAN by the concerned PP in a period of 10 years without interest. But as far as revolving fund for each PP is concerned the repayment will start from harvesting of first crop since installing of the MLIP with interest, which will be mutually agreed upon by PPs and UNNAYAN. The amount of interest to be charged from individual member on loan from revolving fund is left to the PPs.

The scheme is being popularized through the Food-for-Work programme, with the government providing rice at a concessional price, distribution of blankets to those who become members of the PPs (euphemistically known as relief work)

Not only is water for irrigation but even drinking water is being privatized. The government first insists on the formation of water associations and conveniently pass the responsibilities on to these association. When this proves inefficient, water distribution rights are given away to private contractors. For example, the Orissa government initially stressed on the formation of Pani Panchayats (water associations). Later using police the government suppressed these panchayats justifying this by claiming that the villages were not being responsible enough.

In the village of Tikhiri block Muribohal there lived a number of thirty-two families of Gondo and Sikani tribe. Total population of the village is one hundred and fifty. The main problem of the village is scarcity of drinking water. There is pond called Dabara, which has was no water during summer causing a lot of hardship to the people. Even animals in the village are unable to get water. The village people are going to another near by village Badarband. To solve the problem villagers contributed their labour and dug mud well.

Titlagarh is the hottest town of India, but it has no water. As the highest temperature, is recorded here 52 degree. Which is the highest temperature in India. People called inspite of “Titlagarh” it “Tatlagarh”, in local language Tatla means Hot. In Titlagarh water problem is acute. People are buying water throughout the year for drinking and cooking purpose. In the month of May and June the rate of water increased three time, from Rs.2 per Dabba to Rs.8 per Dabba (container). This is the picture of urban areas, but in rural areas the problem is worse, well, tube well all are becoming dry but people have no money to buy water. Due to water problem some villagers are migrating to other places.

In Pialapatar, women’s are spending 3-4 hours in morning and around 5-6 hours in evening to fetch the water from 3 Kms away. In the month of May, there is a long queue, resulting in tensions and quarrel. People also suffer due to water borne diseases, like malaria, dysentery and diarrhea.

Any one who visits western Orissa can found the storage practice in almost all the villages in the plain parts. Digging of Chahala is unique system of water. Storage practice in Orissa. There are other traditional water management practice like, Munda, Kata, Chahala, Chua, and Bandhli.

Disqus Comment